AD Main Menu

Probation officer faces charges in first court appearance

James Halpin

A state probation officer accepted cash and sexual favors in isolated corners of the Nesbett Courthouse for more than a year from a woman who wanted her court-ordered drug tests to come back clean, state prosecutors allege in documents filed in court Wednesday.

James Stanton, 53, was arrested Tuesday on charges of accepting a bribe -- a felony -- and official misconduct after undercover police officers sent the alleged victim into a meeting with him in his basement courthouse office on Tuesday wearing a wire, the documents say.

Stanton worked in the state Department of Health and Social Services' Alcohol Safety Action Program, a treatment program judges often order for probationers. He is accused of not reporting probation violations in exchange for sex and money. DHSS officials said Stanton has been temporarily relieved of his duties.

At a court hearing Wednesday, Stanton's lawyer indicated he intends to fight the charges.

Police say they learned of the claims last Friday, when the woman's lawyer approached them to report a probation officer was having inappropriate contact with her. They didn't learn the woman's identity until Tuesday, said Detective Sgt. Ken McCoy, supervisor of the special victims unit.

"She knew it wasn't right and she was not getting the help that she needed," McCoy said Wednesday. "She recognized that she had a problem and she was in this program to get help, to get clean, and in essence her probation officer was enabling her to continue with that destructive behavior."

Police say Stanton met the woman in 2008, after her release from Hiland Mountain Correctional Center. The woman, identified in court documents only as Jane Doe, is on probation in therapeutic court, a volunteer program that allows defendants with substance abuse problems to seek treatment.

Police say she was required to give several urine samples a week. Beginning in December 2008, according to charges filed by prosecutors, she began paying Stanton "hundreds of dollars" to ignore positive drug test results or not report probation violations.

By last January, the woman didn't have enough money to pay and began performing oral sex on the probation officer, according to an affidavit filed in court by Assistant District Attorney Dan Shorey. She later had sex with Stanton in Nesbett offices and in a boiler room off an underground tunnel that connects that building to the Boney Courthouse next door, he wrote.

When she reported the alleged misconduct to police, the woman said she had told Stanton she didn't want to have sex but she was afraid he would retaliate if she refused, Shorey wrote. Police put a wire on her and sent her to Stanton's office Tuesday afternoon with $200 in marked bills while undercover police listened in from nearby rooms.

In Stanton's office, the woman, who was wearing an arm brace, said she hurt her arm driving drunk on a snowmachine in her home village. Stanton laughed at the news, according to the prosecutor's affidavit.

The woman gave Stanton the cash, which he tucked between two folders on his desk, and they talked about her not being off drugs and alcohol, the affidavit says. The conversation turned to their sexual encounters. Stanton laughed after the woman remarked she felt guilty about seeing one of his co-workers because they had sex in the person's office several times before, Shorey wrote.

The two also discussed whether Stanton had been taking his Viagra. When the woman asked if he needed it, Stanton replied, "not with you," according to the prosecutor's affidavit.

They walked down to a conference room, where Stanton allegedly unbuttoned the woman's shirt and touched her breast, the affidavit says. The woman said she no longer wanted to have sex, just to pay him cash. But Stanton replied, "I don't need any more money," Shorey wrote. The woman left and police arrested Stanton.

Diane Casto, prevention and early intervention manager for DHSS, said much of Stanton's job was reporting on defendants' progress in treatment programs.

The court has criminal justice technicians responsible for urinalysis testing and logging the results into a database, she said. The results are reviewed by both the probation officer and a court administrator, Casto said.

"We do have checks and balances so that there is more than one person who has access to that information and who sees it," Casto said. "Clearly something did break down and we are going to be working and looking at all of our files, at our system to make sure that if there is a glitch in the system that we fix that so that it does not occur again."

Stanton, who is jailed with bail set at $10,000, made an initial appearance in court Wednesday. His attorney, Michael Moberly, sought to reduce a third-party custodian bail requirement and characterized the alleged crime as a "victimless" public administration violation.

"It's an opportunistic thing, given his position," Moberly said, arguing Stanton is no danger. He declined to comment after the hearing.

District Judge Gregory Motyka would not remove the third-party requirement but set a bail hearing for this morning to decide whether Stanton could be released with an electronic monitoring device.

"He knows that at least one of the people that he was monitoring has come forward, and I am concerned that there may be other people and that there could be actions taken which would be completely below our radar," Motyka said.

Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.


By JAMES HALPIN
jhalpin@adn.com